Mad Scientess Jane Expat (nanila) wrote,
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Topic Meme: Day 9

[personal profile] pulchritude said: feeling 'other' in Hawai'i vs. in the continental US vs in the UK

This is a particularly interesting one, especially after having just returned from the [continental] US. Apologies in advance for the number of quotation marks used in this post.

In Hawai'i, I didn't feel "other" because of my appearance or my ethnicity or my personality. Unlike a lot of the other children, I was not Chinese or Japanese or Filipino or Samoan or even native Hawai'ian. I was "hapa" - mixed race; usually East Asian + white, but can be any combination. There are a lot of hapa children in Hawai'i and many are brought up bilingual and bi- or multi-cultural. I had the latter but not the former. My parents did not make a special effort to speak Tagalog or Ilocano in our home. In fact, most of my cousins, who are Filipino-only, don't speak either language. I'm not sure if this is unique to our family or if it is part of the Filipino attitude toward cultural integration. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I never felt "other" in Hawai'i at all. Having been away for so long, I probably would feel it if I went back to live there, which makes me a little sad. The only way to have avoided that, however, would be never to have left in the first place.

Feeling "other" for the first time happened when I was moved to the continental US to go to school. Instead of being surrounded by children who looked like me and had the same mixed-Asian cultural experience, I was surrounded by white children. The most popular children were blonde-haired and blue-eyed, and I very quickly learned that I would never be one of them. My confidence was dashed. My outgoing nature was subdued. I learned to guard my tongue against slips that would reveal that I ate "gross" food (e.g. Spam, noodles (?!)) or watched "weird" movies (e.g. kung fu). Since I was good at school-work, I adopted the mantle of "smartest girl in the class" and kept it through high school, which protected me from bullying to a certain extent - at least it meant the teachers were usually paying attention to me.

I feel "other" all the time in the UK simply because I'm American by birth and my accent gives me away (although my American relatives couldn't stop talking about my "British" accent). But it's an "other" I'm comfortable with, probably because I like and admire modern British culture, and have made an effort to study it and to integrate into it as best I can. Whenever I go back to the States, though, there is a repressed part of me that uncoils and relaxes. I get a bit louder, a bit more animated, a little more sweary, and somewhat more likely to share personal information. I don't even realise that that part of me had been tensed up and on alert while I'm in the UK, on guard against loosening of the tongue or oversharing of emotion, until I'm away.

This entry was originally posted at The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.
Tags: expatriate, meme, navel-gazing, social politics

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